Business confidence has fallen in 10 of the UK's 12 regions, with the two exceptions only narrowly escaping a fall themselves, according to a new survey.
The Regional Trends Survey, by the CBI and Experian Business Strategies, shows that the only two regions to avoid a decline in sentiment over the last quarter were Northern Ireland - recording a balance of plus 1 per cent - and the South East
and London - recording a balance of plus 3 per cent. Wales suffered the sharpest drop in confidence in the UK, reporting a balance of minus 38 per cent.
But the survey showed more encouraging signs for exporters over the next quarter. For the first time in 15 months, more than half of the UK regions expect export orders to rise. Most optimistic of the six regions predicting a rise are the North West and Wales, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber, the East Midlands, Northern Ireland and the South East and London.
Over the last three months, just three of the UK's 11 regions recorded a rise in total orders. The North East and Northern Ireland recorded the highest increases, and both regions also recorded the only increases in export orders last quarter.
Five regions expect total orders to rise over the next three months. The North East predicts the strongest increase, while the West Midlands anticipates the largest decline.
Northern Ireland is the most optimistic of five regions that expect output to pick up over the next three months. The West Midlands leads the regions expecting output to decline.
With domestic demand under particular pressure, every region but three reported a fall in domestic prices, with the South West and Scotland experiencing the largest declines.
Peter Gutmann, Associate Director of Experian Business Strategies, said: "The export optimism expressed by a number of regions is encouraging amid the persistently gloomy picture portrayed in this survey. Similar optimism a year ago proved to be a false dawn, as the global recovery petered out. This time we have a more competitive exchange rate and renewed expectations of a global economic upturn. While evidence of recovery is not wholly convincing, it is sufficient to justify the more upbeat export outlook."